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OP-ED: Is remote learning the future?

  • Published at 07:32 pm June 16th, 2021
online education

It’s not a faultless solution, but it’s the best option we have

ver a year after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote learning is still prevalent in the education sector. As educational institutions across the country remain closed due to safety reasons, in light of the recent spike in Covid-19 cases, remote learning remains the primary method of education.    

On March 18, 2020, all educational institutions officially closed corresponding to the first lockdown and have remained closed since. Students soon adopted online classes into daily practice when it was recognized that the effects of the pandemic would be more lasting than they were originally thought to be. While most private schools switched to an online learning approach towards the beginning of the academic year, as the effects of the pandemic have prolonged their initial estimated time, online education has been made more accessible to public schools and such. According to Brac, 44.1% of the country’s students had switched to distance learning as of 2020. 

As the effects of the pandemic linger and push distance learning to become more accessible to a wider group of consumers, it seems reasonable to ask: Is remote learning the future of education? Wang Tao, vice president of Tencent Cloud and vice president of Tencent Education, says: “I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education.” The impact of remote learning extends beyond just the limitations enforced by the pandemic and the facilities of online learning may persist well after the pandemic.   

Remote learning easily accommodates more people than physical classes since the platform being virtual allows anyone to be free to join in on classes without taking up another’s spot. More people receive an education at the same time through online facilities since the inclusion of one does not hamper that of another.   

As the educational institutions remain closed for longer periods of time, administrators find more ways to be innovative and inclusive with the online education approach. Within the past year, online learning has been made more accessible to a vast array of people, from city residents to those in remote areas. According to BTRC, the number of internet users in Bangladesh has reached 113 million in 2021; a massive upsurge of 22 million users since before the pandemic, in 2019. 

As more and more areas of Bangladesh become digitalized, it becomes easier to provide education in remote areas where it may not have been thought possible before. In Bangladesh, education has even been made accessible for those without internet access through the airing of educational shows on the Sangsad Channel on cable television.   

Remote learning also allows students to accommodate classes into their schedule more easily and attend them at their comfort since the hours are more flexible. Students and teachers alike can work out favourable timings that suit both parties to hold classes, and the elimination of travel time, transport costs, and the tribulations of the overall process of getting to physical classes saves both students and teachers a lot of time and money that can be better invested into the actual classes instead. According to a Brandon Hall report on eLearning within corporations, online learning typically requires 40-60% less employee time than in-person learning.   

Of course, there are concerns regarding every education system, and distance learning is no exception to that. This system of education does face a few challenges, the most prominent being the difficulty of ensuring sufficient teacher-training and undisturbed connection to the internet. While connectivity issues could disrupt class time, interruptions could also be attributed to in-person classes, and ensuring a class with zero disturbances is nearly impossible, online or otherwise. On the other hand, teachers could be trained to use technology effectively if more resources were allocated to teacher training, making for a more effective online schooling experience.   

Bangladesh, of course, is not the only nation to be going through ups and downs with remote learning. According to OECD data, 95% of students in Switzerland were able to successfully access a computer to attend online classes. However, this number was considerably lower in Indonesia, rounding up to 34% of its students. It is also useful to consider the efficiency of online teaching methods across the world. 

For example, in the US, personalized online learning via special software such as Canvas LMS and Kahoot! was implemented, and it is even anticipated that the market for personalized online learning is to grow by over $250 million by 2025. In comparison, Bangladesh falls somewhere in the middle zone with adequate online learning facilities for most schools across the capital, but with room for improvement in terms of distance learning facilities in remote areas.   

Although not a faultless solution, just like most options out there, as a student, I can attest that online education has flowed relatively smoothly over the past year. Despite its minor flaws, it still serves as a steady source of education, and with its flexibility and the way it has changed the course of education, it is reasonable to anticipate that remote learning will still be used to some extent in the future to ensure smooth learning processes even after the pandemic. 

Naturally, the effectiveness of online learning varies across nations and institutions, but at the end of the day, people are still learning. Students are still receiving an education and with the changes that have affected the world over the past year, remote learning is seemingly the most effective, long-term method at present, and the most suitable choice to take over as the future of education.

Bidisha Roy is a student, and an intern at the Dhaka Tribune.

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